All things Memory – a journey to better understanding

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I’m interested in all things memory.

This a recent ‘thing’ that simply popped into my thoughts and has been increasing in its curiosity ever since.  Perhaps this is in some part connected to personal experience; a family member with dementia, an acute awareness of how fast my children are growing up, the angst felt when looking at all the recorded memories stacking up waiting to be presented in an orderly fashion instead of stacked in a drawer or two….or three or 4!

All of the above plays a significant part in my interest in the area of memory and added to this is inevitably increasing age and significantly increasing workload in many different areas of life.  It makes me wonder if my brain and memory within will cope in the long run.  What will the long term effects be?  Are our brains adjusting admirably to the modern pace of life and 24, 7 accessibility through social media, infinite work hours and super hero mentality of those who keep going on and on and on….?

Recently I have been doing some online research about the memory – just because!

To start with, research has been based in finding tips to keep the memory sharp. Finding ‘7 ways to keep your memory sharp at any age’ written by Harvard Health Publishing  seems a great place to start.

  1. Keep Learning  (great! A tick to start given my current research!)
  2. Use all your senses  (That will require more thought)
  3. Believe in yourself   (So true)
  4. Economise your brain use  (No need to feel guilty about the electronic planner or Alexa)
  5. Repeat what you want to know  (Fits in nicely with a new business idea – more of that later.)
  6. Space it out – spaced rehearsal of facts, thoughts and ideas improves recall  (Makes sense)
  7. Make a mnemonic  (Always used well in medical advice e.g. for strokes – FAST)

‘Memory is the process of maintaining information over time.’ (Matlin, 2005)

Being particularly interested in how we preserve our memories I’ve been looking at the creation of a quick and easy way to record events.  Some way to stop the pile up of visit guides, electronic photos, pieces of nature picked up on the way such as leaves and acorns building up in boxes and drawers; a way to put all these keepsakes together and remember what we’ve discovered on the way.

The end result is the Memory Maze.  A series of small timelines through different periods and lengths of time, putting history in context and providing a framework to preserve our own memories.  I’ll let you see them soon – just perfecting them at the present point in time.

I’m an artist.  I enjoy creating works from detailed illustration to large expressionist paintings in oils and acrylics on canvas and board.  Couple this with my fascination with history and memory, I hope to encourage others to embrace this easily accessible type of mini scrap booking activity, enabling everyone to find success in documenting their memories.  Interestingly enough, bringing family and friends together for such an activity can help to remove the sometimes awkwardness of conversation between the young and the old.  When I think of Alzheimer’s and my loved family member I know that creative activities such as this will help my young children to build a joyful relationship with someone of an older generation.  It’s important that our children know how to ‘just be’ around people from all walks of life otherwise how else can we equip themselves in the best possible way for the future?

Scientists know that Alzheimer’s disease normally spares, to a very large extent, the parts of the brain related to emotions, creativity and creative expression.  Creativity can help break down the barriers existing with socialising, enjoyment and a sense of wellbeing and worth.

Whilst researching an article on ResearchGate written in 2006 I noted what Kitwood and Woods have said and can see that many forms of creative arts can support us all in many different ways and particularly those with diseases like Alzheimer’s.

‘Impaired cognitive resources for people with dementia underpin difficulties in preserving a sense of personal identity and self-esteem. Impaired memories, communication and social skills make inter-personal relationships difficult to sustain. Social isolation and compromised social networks are sometimes regarded as an inevitable consequence of disease expression.’ (Kitwood, 1997; Woods, 2001).   

A need to know about how I can support the building of my own memories, those of my children together with those of the wider family has urged me to keep reading, keep thinking and keep figuring out how I can support the ‘importance of memory’.  I can’t wait to learn more, understand deeper and share my findings generously.

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